Quebec City, first stop in Canada
After waking up and grabbing a shower I was ready for the road, Portland had been good. Jamie was on her way to work, a quick stop for coffee and gas and I was hopping out of her car as a red light turned green saying thanks and goodbye, once again I was at the on ramp to my future.
Cars went by, and soon one honked and pointed behind me, a minivan had just pulled over. I ran up to find a girl in big sun glasses asking where I was headed, Quebec City was my answer, she was going a short way in this direction.
She lived near Portland, she said she came to town to get a coffee and changed her mind once she arrived. There was the clam festival going on a few towns up, she told me about clam shucking competitions and things like this. As we got closer she gave me the option, drop me off at the festival to check it out, or she'd drive me another 30 minutes or so up the road, I chose the festival.
We pulled into the street filled with people and tents on both sides, she gave me $10 insisting I try the fried clams. She drove off and I got to wandering through the tents, mostly people selling trinkets, books, clothes and things. I found the clam tent and bought as much as $10 would get me, a half pint. The guy who handed them to me pointed me in the direction of the closest freeway entrance and I headed that way while munching on the fried goodness.
I was picked up by a car after a half hour wait, he took me up near the town of Freeport. The next spot I found myself in had no shoulder for a car to pull over. I decided to walk down to the freeway itself despite the "No bikes, no pedestrians, no hitchhikers", etc sign. Before I really got to walking a car stopped, he didn't need a shoulder, he just stopped in the middle of the road and I hopped in. He said he was headed to a town, I didn't recognize the name and didn't know how far it was, but we were speeding in the right direction.
He was tall, 6 foot 5 inches he said, he'd gone to Yale and lived in New Haven, Connecticut for about eight years. Now he was to live in Maine, starting a new job where he'd asses chunks of forest for companies that wanted to invest. He told me about a time he went train hopping from Boston to Los Angeles with a couple of his friends, it took eight trains and was a great time he'd said. In Denver they'd hopped the wrong train headed north and wound up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. From there he said they tried hitchhiking for an hour, but thought no one would pick up three tall bearded and dirty looking guys, so they got back to train hopping.
I never made it to the town he was headed to, my turn off came first and he let me out on this new smaller road. In only minutes a car with a Quebec license plate pulled over and a young guy got out of the passenger seat to make room in the back, this would be my 3 or 4 hour ride to Quebec City. His girlfriend was driving, they were both about 20 years old. We talked about different things, and in between they would talk to each other in french.
They bragged that Quebec City was far batter than Montreal, this had a lot to do with a hockey rivalry. They stopped every now and then to take turns driving, the girl was afraid of moose jumping in the middle of the road and the guy laughed at her for it, she got nervous every time a "moose crossing" sign appeared.
Eventually we hit the border checkpoint, I hoped I wouldn't have to get out for further inspection and lose my ride or some such. The guy spoke through the window in French to the couple, then started questioning me. Where I was headed, how much money I had, who I was staying with and so on. I knew to say I had plenty of money in my bank account, a lie, I don't even have a bank account anymore. He was satisfied, and we moved along, I was in Canada again.
Alas we were passing over the river and into Quebec City. I had my couchsurfing host's address scribbled on a piece of paper, they punched it into their GPS and dropped me off right at her door where we parted ways.
I knocked on the door not expecting an answer, one never came. Noemie was my host here through couchsurfing, she'd told me to come to town whenever, but that this particular day she wouldn't be home at night. I wasn't sure when she'd be getting back, so I decided to haul myself and backpack towards the downtown.
It was a decent walk, into the cobble stoned streets and old looking buildings, passing narrow streets heading flat to the left and uphill to my right. Around when I hit more of a downtown type of area I made a loop and headed back towards Noemie's place. An old interesting looking man started talking to me, I couldn't understand a word of his french, but mirrored his smile, I could tell he was saying something funny about me or my backpack perhaps. I just said only english, he smiled and said something else realizing this, and walked away.
Back at Noemie's doorstep, I waited. I curled up by the door and caught a pinch of on and off sleep as darkness solidified itself. I left my bag on her doorstep to investigate the park across the street quickly, then is when I peeked up a street and realized that there were streetlights and stores. It had been so quiet, I thought I was deep in a residential area up on this hill. Confident my bag was safe, I left it behind and went to explore the neighborhood. I walked by some shops that had closed and mostly empty restaurant and bars. I peeked through the window of a gas station at the beer, nothing interesting, and kept walking, I hadn't any canadian money anyhow.
I eventually came back to the doorstep and continued to wait until I wasn't sure if she'd be coming back at all until the next day. I broke out my sleeping bag in the small patch of grass between her house and the neighbors, losing myself to sleep and thoughts.
At some point later I heard car doors closing and people walking up the steps to the door, then a "What... what's that?", from a sleepy haze I popped my head out of the bag to see Noemie walking up to me smiling in realization, "couchsurfer, Kenny?", I shook her hand and we laughed as I got out of the bag, there were two other guys with her standing on the steps. I met them as well and we all went inside, she quickly showed me a futon in the basement and asked me if I needed anything, they were all ready for sleep, it was around 1am and they'd been out drinking the last day of the Summer Festival. I awkwardly accepted an unexpected double cheek kiss, "Oh, you don't... in Quebec we do this", she told me.
In the morning I woke up in silence and went upstairs to an empty feeling house, by noon I was unsure if everyone was still sleeping or had gone out already. I was going to take a shower and wander myself, but then a guy came downstairs that I'd met the night before, couchsurfing from Russia, I called him Artie. He said he was going to wander downtown as well, he'd been in town a couple days already. After some showers we were on our feet heading towards downtown, a more direct and interesting route than the one I'd chosen with my backpack the night before.
We wandered the streets of Quebec City from uptown to downtown seeing what there was to see. Everyone had ice cream cones on the street, I got one myself as we continued walking. Artie had hitched over from Vancouver having a great trip. He told me he'd slept inside every night along the way without the aid of couchsurfing, just friendly folks he'd met while hitchhiking. One guy gave him the option to sign a contract to take a job and make $30 an hour, he was tempted, but continuing his trip across Canada was more appealing.
We grabbed some big muffins from a place, Artie flirted with the cute blonde girl behind the register who didn't speak much english, he had me take his picture with her while she was on a smoke break. We continued wandering along castle walls and the winding streets of the city. A tourist saw us and wanted her picture taken with Quebecians, she was even more excited when she Artie said he was in fact Russian, not from Quebec.
We went back to Noemie's place to find her with Heiko and a girl who'd just arrived from Australia sitting with beers, we joined them. More friends began to arrive, four of us went to the store for some more beer and pasta. The night went on with some drinking and eating and even more people arriving, a couple musicians from Vancouver and Montreal came to spend the night and busk the streets the next day. They shared some free bread they'd gotten and told me about their drumming and busking.
Good times getting to Canada and Quebec City, the next morning I'd have Montreal on my mind as the next step.